You might ride a bicycle to get a workout while enjoying the fresh air and scenery around Seattle. Maybe you commute to your job on your bike. If you have children, they may ride bikes for fun or to get to a friend's house in the neighborhood.
Regardless of the reason for cycling, it's evident that many people love to cycle. But the stark reality is that riders in and around Seattle face risks of bicycle accidents. And with relatively little protection from crashes, an adult or child riding a bicycle can sustain a serious injury or even get killed by another motorist on the road who may not be paying attention.
Fatal bicycle accidents nationwide were on the decline until 2010, but since then the trend has reversed, according to an August 2017 report by the Governors Highway Safety Association. In 2015, 818 people died in cycling accidents, an increase of 12.2 percent over the number of fatalities in 2014.
Adults represent many of the bicycle accident fatalities, according to the report. Decades ago, most deadly bicycle accidents involved children. The recent GHSA report states that the average age of a bicyclist who is killed is 45. About 85 percent of those killed are male.
How drivers can cause bicycle accidents
The 75-page GHSA report, titled "A Right to the Road: Understanding & Addressing Bicyclist Safety," includes these and many other findings. One startling fact: Many motorists fail to see bicycle riders who are sharing the road. The report reveals that drivers must pay attention to their surroundings.
Other facts from the report:
- Fatal bicycle accidents occur in non-intersection locations 72 percent of the time.
- Slightly more than half of fatal bicycle crashes (53 percent) occur between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
- Alcohol consumption by the driver or the cyclist played a role in 37 percent of the fatal accidents in 2015.
The report details steps that states have taken to prevent bicycle accidents. Washington State created legislation in 2013 granting communities authority to lower speed limits from 25 mph to 20 mph.
Seattle, which has one of the highest bicycle commuter rates (3.7 percent), seized the opportunity to lower the speed limits on neighborhood greenways, or streets that make pedestrian or bicycle travel a higher priority than driving a car.
According to the report, nationwide lawmakers in 2016 introduced 285 bills addressing safety measures for cyclists and pedestrians. Nineteen state legislators enacted 38 bills.
The new policies to protect riders address rules for how motorists pass bicyclists, operation and equipment, and tougher penalties for drivers who cause accidents involving bicyclists.
Our bicycle accident attorneys in Seattle applaud such moves designed to protect cyclists. After all, people who choose to ride bicycles have a right to use the road.